Operant Conditioning Essay

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Operant Conditioning: An Overview Classical, or Pavlovian, conditioning is a process by which new emotional and glandular reactions develop in response to previously neutral stimuli in the environment. But classical conditioning doesn't explain how we develop new skills or behaviors instrumental in changing our external environments. That learning process involves what is typically referred to asinstrumental, or operant, conditioning. Operant conditioning describes how we develop behaviors that ''operate upon the environment'' to bring about behavioral consequencesin that environment. Operant conditioning applies many techniques and procedures first investigated by E. L. Thorndike (1898) but later refined and extended by B. F. Skinner (Skinner, 1938). Thorndike was an American psychologist who was one of the first to investigate the effects of behavioral consequences on learning. His work led him to emphasize both the effects of positive as well as negative behavioral consequences. Because behaviors are instrumental in bringing about such consequences by operating upon the environment in some way, this process for developing new skilled behaviors was first called instrumental conditioning. In subsequent literatures, especially in those inspired by the work of Skinner, the term ''instrumental conditioning'' was replaced by the term ''operant conditioning.'' Nevertheless it was Thorndike who first concluded that positive consequences strengthen behaviors to make them more likely in similar situations in the future; a phenomenon he labeled the Law of Effect. Inspired by the much earlier work of both Pavlov and Thorndike, another American Psychologist, B.F. Skinner, went on to develop the principles of operant conditioning. Skinner formalized these principles and identified many variables involved in

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